Monday, September 10, 2012


Have you noticed? Young people today just don't have the same level of commitment to church as their parents and grandparents! They have no loyalty. They have no deep roots. They don't believe and support the one thing that their ancestors did - that bedrock commitment to their church. They really don't value investing themselves in a church, planting seeds into that faith community, and paying it forward to the next generation.

(Okay, this is where I insert a disclaimer to say this is not true but a massive generalization - please read on)

Of course they don't.

They don't because their parents and grandparents - the same ones who voice many, if not most, of those complaints above - taught them they don't have to have commitment to anything. I'm not blaming anyone, I'm just pointing out how this past two generations have been brought up by their parents.


That is one of the hallmarks of capitalism and one of the benchmarks on which this nation is built financially. You, the consumer, get to pick and choose.

So, flashback to your childhood and remember when you sat in the grocery cart as your mom turned the corner and enter Wonderland - the cereal aisle. Mom slowly pushed the cart and you began saying (or if you couldn't speak, you'd scream) what cereals you wanted. Mom ended up buying 2, 3, or even 4 different kinds of cereal because she knew you would switch every few days. And Mom didn't stick just to Kellogg's  brands, she'd even get General Mills or even the occasional off brand (which Dad usually ended up eating or maybe you gave it to the dog!).

Sure enough, over the next couple of weeks you'd have Cheerios for a few days, then switch to Fruit Loops, and then jump over to Sugar Smacks, circle back to Cheerios and finally you'd say you were tired of all those but you'd seen a new cereal on TV and you wanted to try that one so Mom might as well throw away all of the others and just go get the new one.

Kids learned that they can switch cereals on a whim. But also soft drinks, clothes brands, fast food chains, and any other consumer product out there. As an adult, we switch loyalties with car manufacturers (even though grandfather was a Ford or Chrysler or Chevy buyer) and even neighborhoods - I know of people who will move every few years when they grow tired of their home. Young people do the same with jobs. 20-somethings today will switch careers 7-10 times in their work life - that means that they will change job every 3-7 years.

Anyone who has been a child in the past 65 years (since WWII) has been raised in a culture of choices where they are in charge of making those choices.

So why do long-timers in the church get all upset when their kids and grandkids jump from one church to a different church to no-church and over to a church of a different denomination or no denomination. After all, it's what we taught them: "you don't have to accept what is in front of you," and "you have the power to change your circumstances and surroundings so do it."

Church-hopping today doesn't happen for only the same reasons as before. I think that our grandparents jumped to another church because of something that happened and caused them to leave. They take that frame of reference and apply to their kids or grandkids.

I think there are a multitude of reasons why people today leave church.
  • They don't like the programming or staffing
  • A friend invited them to go to another church
  • They want to experience and experiment with a different church
  • They're looking for a church with values that they have (at the present time)
  • They want a church that will be good for their kids even if there is nothing for the adults
  • They're seeking a church that is strong in one area of ministry or cause which they identify with
  • They've had a conflict with a lay member or staff leader
  • Or any of hundred other reasons
So what is a church to do. How do you address the issue of church hopping in your church? The number of responses is equal to the number of problems but here are a few prime answers
  • Do nothing - just accept that people will come and go through your church. Don't change anything and realize that the back door is just as wide as the front door and that many people will use both and a few core people will stay and help run things.
  • Focus on a few core principles that guide your church and which in turn limit the number of ministries you do and then do those few ministries extremely well. That means the people who do come will be inculcated into your few ministries.
  • Provide a variety of ministries so that you're trying to do lots of different things. This is what many churches do - focus on nothing and aim at everything. It works for a while but frankly it dilutes the power and ministry and energy of a church to focus on nothing and try to do everything.
  • Have a few compelling environments which attract people and make them stick to your church. These compelling environments will attract like-minded people so long as it remains a high-level of quality. This is simliar to #2 but that is focused on ministries and this point is on people-groups.
  •  Have several different worship styles within the same facility. That means building several worship centers or doing quick-changes; it also means a bigger staff. But the hope is that you can be a church where people can flit between worship and education venues all the while hearing the same message in a variety of methods.
OR, change the point of view of the people coming to church. That is MUCH harder to do. You see, everything I wrote above sees people coming to church as consumers. They aren't. And church leaders should stop treating members as consumer. Church attendees are to be givers - of their time, their talents, and their financial treasure. They are to be GENEROUS!

When you attend a wedding, you are not a consumer. You are there at the invitation of the bride or groom; you didn't just crash it. And the wedding is NOT about you - it's about the bride (sorry, grooms!). You are a participant - there to enjoy the party and to help celebrate a special day.

Worship is NEVER about the people inside the church. People are there at God's invitation (and we have no right to turn anyone - anyone! - away). Everyone must be there with the right motivation - not "to get something out of it" but to celebrate God and the life we've been given and in turn give away anything and everything we can to help others.

Yeah, changing members in a consumer-oriented culture into reverse-consumer (generous givers!) is not easy. But God doesn't do easy (or else he'd wipe us off the map - LOL) and God certainly isn't a consumer-God.

God does love and giving and celebrating and joy. We should and can and must, also.

Lead On!

No comments:

Post a Comment